[URBAN LEGENDS] Encouraging sustainable living through film

[URBAN LEGENDS] Encouraging sustainable living through film

Pınar Öncel (L), Tuna Özçuhadar (C) and Filiz Telek share their concern for an earth-friendly way of living through projects such as the Sustainable Film Festival, which wraps up today.

November 28, 2008, Friday/ 18:17:00/ FULYA ÖZLEM
One day, they watched a film and their lives changed. The Sustainable Living Collective is a group of friends who are genuinely concerned with an earth-friendly way of living and how it could be maintained.But one should not imagine three nerdy-looking people staring at a computer screen to see where the world is heading and searching for the blue button to prevent it from going there. No, it's nothing of the sort. They are more like humble human beings who worry that we cannot continue exhausting the earth's resources by exploiting it.

I know Filiz Telek from a bazillion years ago, when we used to stay in the same dorm room at uni. We actually shared a bunk bed. You could tell back then that she was the sort of person who would go out there and save the planet; she was working for Habitat for Humanity in several projects after graduation. When we lost contact for a couple of years, I would hear that she was in Canada or Hungary or some remote desert in Africa doing social projects.

Finally when she was back in İstanbul, her dream was to found a Sustainable Living Collective in İstanbul and do permaculture and dialogue-based facilitation. In the meantime, she was lucky enough to find her partners in crime: Tuna Özçuhadar and Pınar Öncel. Filiz, Pınar and Tuna have formed the collective and have since been searching for ways to live in such a way that is in harmony with the earth and that would preserve its resources.

Then, they watched a film and their lives changed. Actually, they saw this 20-minute short film from Annie Leonard called "Story of Stuff" and were fascinated by the simplicity with which Leonard was able to put forward her ideas. It was an animated film with Leonard saying that if we were going to consume like this, given the limited resources and finitude of the earth, we will reach an ultimate state of scarcity in all walks of human life.

Judging by their motivation to act after watching the film, the group was inspired to start a film festival with films on ecology, farming, permaculture, energy and all topics related to the different ways of sustainable living. They worked together for months to collect the films, get permission, find the places and so on by personally experiencing all the difficult stages of making their dream -- the film festival -- real. Their primary objective is to raise awareness and create a circle of dialogue around the film festival through which people can talk, share their ideas, exchange their opinions and maybe even come up with solutions to existing difficulties.

The Sustainable Living Film Festival has been taking place at the Italian Cultural Institute from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Wednesday through today. There are 25 Turkish and foreign documentaries and animations screened in their original language with Turkish subtitles. There is no admission charge.

The Sustainable Living Film Festival aims to make visible the dominant global system we live in, which is not sustainable by definition and practice. The festival also highlights the emerging citizens movement around the globe to create a sustainable world and find solutions. Documentaries on various subjects -- from agriculture to water, from energy to the economy, from food to mining -- under sustainable living are screened during the festival.

Different from other environmental film festivals, the Sustainable Living Film Festival, with its holistic approach, aims to reveal the mechanical and fragmented worldview and its byproducts that consume our lives. The festival also invites people to hope and use common sense by sharing with them the movements, practices, teachings and approaches to sustain life from all around the world. By sharing the emergence of a higher consciousness and a sustainable living vision, they hope to encourage and empower the audience.

Among the festival films are "Future of Food," which exposes the consequences of genetically modified food; "Choropampa: The Price of Gold," which tells the story of a town suffering from a mercury spill from a gold mine; "Thirst," which criticizes the privatization of water and the World Water Forum, which will take place in Turkey in 2009; "Drowned Out," which tells the story of a village flooded by a dam; "The Power of Community," which documents how Cuba survived peak oil in the early '90s; "Learning from Ladakh," which offers an insight into a sustainable community; and "Semillas Sagradas," a story of potato farmers from the Andes that was also shown at the Slow Food Film Festival in Italy in 2007. Besides the film screenings, there are talks, live music and little surprises about sustainable living.

As for the group itself, the Sustainable Living Collective was born with the purpose of creating projects with a group of individuals from different disciplines who came together to sustain and regenerate all life, living systems and the earth. It is an informal group with no legal form. Along with awareness-raising projects such as the film festival, the collective plans to work on projects such as permaculture practices, an urban community garden, a natural building and sustainable social design, addressing the local community's real needs.

* For more information and festival program:

* You can contact the Sustainable Living Collective at [email protected]